Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Trouble With Uplift: How black politics succumbed to the siren song of the racial voice -- Adolph Reed


A curiously inflexible brand of race-first neoliberalism has taken root in American political discourse.

In order to legitimate what Michaels describes as “racial rent-seeking,” a curiously inflexible brand of race-first neoliberalism has taken root in American political discourse, proposing a trickle-down model of racial progress, anchored in the mysticism of organic black community. Against this exoticized backdrop, neoliberal race leaders stage the beguiling fantasy that individual “entrepreneurialism” is the key path to rising above one’s circumstances—i.e., the standard American social myth that obscures the deeper need to combat systemic inequalities. The most tragic, and pathetic, expressions of this faith are the versions of the “gospel of prosperity,” which fuse pop self-realization psychology and a barely recognizable Christianity to exploit desperation and the desire for life with dignity and respect among their black-majority congregations. The false hopes of the prosperity gospel encourage already vulnerable people to fall prey to all sorts of destructive get-rich-quick schemes; they are the “sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions” channeled through a market-idolatrous Protestant psychobabble. Black ministers and other proponents of entrepreneurialist ideology as racial uplift also played a largely unrecognized role in pushing subprime mortgages, and even payday loans, in black communities.

The racial trickle-down success myth is partly a vestige of an earlier era, during which individual black attainments could be seen as testaments to the race’s capacities—and a refutation of the white-sanctioned view of black people as generally inferior. Even then, however, this model of black uplift was enmeshed in the race theory of the time—notably the belief that a race’s capacities were indicated by the accomplishments of its “best” individuals—and it was always inflected with the class perspectives of those who saw themselves as such individuals. The class legacies of this foundational moment in modern black politics may well contribute to the firm insistence among today’s “black voices” that slavery and Jim Crow mark the transcendent truth of black Americans’ experience in the United States—and that an irreducible racism is the source of all manifest racial inequality. That diagnosis certainly masks class asymmetries among black Americans’ circumstances as well as in the remedies proposed to improve them.

Nevertheless, we continue to indulge the politically wrong-headed, counterproductive, and even reactionary features of the “representative black voice” industry in whatever remains of our contemporary public sphere. And we never reckon with the truly disturbing presumption that any black person who can gain access to the public microphone and performs familiar rituals of “blackness” should be recognized as expressing significant racial truths and deserves our attention. This presumption rests on the unexamined premise that blacks share a common, singular mind that is at once radically unknowable to non-blacks and readily downloaded by any random individual setting up shop as a racial voice. And despite what all of our age’s many heroic narratives of individualist race-first triumph may suggest to the casual viewer, that premise is the essence of racism.

Adolph Reed is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania


Fred Hampton, internationalism, and Palestine: an interview with Jeffrey Haas – Mondoweiss

Fred Hampton, internationalism, and Palestine: an interview with Jeffrey Haas – Mondoweiss: Movement attorney Jeffrey Haas discusses his work exposing the police and FBI murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, and his commitment to supporting Palestinian liberation.


AJP: You do Palestine organizing in New Mexico. How did you get involved in being a Palestine solidarity organizer? 

Jeffrey Haas

JH: It was a natural development because the Panthers talked about human rights and equal rights and so when you’re open to that, you really don’t want to accept injustice anywhere. I had grown up in a reform Jewish congregation in Atlanta that wasn’t particularly Zionist, but we had heard all the myths about “if we give money, we’re planting trees to make the desert bloom,” not to hide what had been done to Palestinian villages. As I and many others took up the liberation struggles of Central Americans fighting for liberation, the issue of Palestine came up directly when we learned about what was happening in Guatemala. The corrupt junta was killing and putting masses of indigenous people in internment camps aided directly by the state of Israel. Why was Israel doing the dirty work of the US? Why did Israel continue to support the apartheid government in South Africa to the very end? It became clear that Israel was an apartheid state itself and had not only sided with other authoritarian colonial oppressors, but sought to benefit financially by selling the surveillance and military technology they used to repress the Palestinian people to other colonial and imperialist powers.

With the first attacks on Gaza in 2014, I helped organize a group called Another Jewish Voice of Santa Fe. There was also Another Jewish Voice of Albuquerque and we joined together. We continue to organize and raise issues, to protest as Santa Feans For Justice in Palestine. We put up some very explicit artwork on a very public wall depicting Israeli atrocities to Palestinian youth a year ago and raised a lot of awareness . . . and not unsurprisingly got some Zionist backlash.  We worked closely with the Red Nation because they are frequently drawing the connection between the struggles of Native Americans and the struggles of Palestinians against colonialism. A lot of the techniques, military gear and devices that Israel uses against  Palestinians have been taught to and acquired by  US law enforcement  and used against the Black movement in Ferguson and the indigenous-led Water Protectors at Standing Rock.


Friday, February 26, 2021